Teaching students can access free professional clothing to jump-start careers
MURFREESBORO — June Adams simply saw a need and has worked to fill it.
As the adviser for new transfer students and also graduate analyst in the MTSU College of Education, Adams’ interactions with future educators revealed that many students didn’t have the proper professional wardrobe to enter the classroom full time.
Thus, the creation of Clothing Our Educators Boutique, which opens later this month in the College of Education Building (COE) Room 203 to help future teachers launch their classroom careers. The boutique will provide clothing at no cost to upper level students in the “residency” portion of the teaching program.
After the success of a soft opening for faculty in December, a grand opening is planned for 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 17.
“As I advise students and work with students, I see the need,” Adams said. “Most aren’t as fortunate as others … and attire is basically jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. … I’m seeing the need everyday.”
Located just off the office suite of College of Education Dean Lana Seivers, Clothing Our Educators has the feel of an intimate boutique, with neatly arranged racks of women’s and men’s clothing in a variety of sizes and styles, and a glass display case showcasing various accessories to complete any outfit. A big, red, decorative apple sits to the right flanked by teacher-related decorations on the wall.
“When (students) walk in, you want to give them something that’s inspiring,” Adams said. “It looks well enough and is set up to say, ‘I’m important. This makes me feel good.’”
Residency students are upper level students immediately preparing for or are already student teaching in the classroom. To use the boutique, these students must fill out a short application to document what they received. Students can access the boutique by appointment. Please contact Adams in COE Room 307, by phone 615-898-5153 or by email June.Adams@mtsu.edu.
“This is a starter,” Adams said.
Adams was inspired by the Raiders Closet, a free clothing resource founded by Jones College of Business management professor Virginia Hemby-Grubb three years ago. Raiders Closet provides students across campus with quality business attire for job interviews, internships and other professional needs.
Now located in the Keathley University Center Room 327, Raiders Closet relies on donations to stock suits, blouses, dresses, skirts, shoes, ties and accessories.
“To see what was being done by them, I was amazed,” Adams said. “Virginia has really been very helpful.”
For Adams, the idea was born while attending a committee meeting last year to discuss the university’s micro grant program, which provides emergency funds for students with unexpected expenses that could prevent them from staying in college.
If students are struggling with basic challenges, such as paying for textbooks and putting gas in their vehicles to get to class, she thought, then they will likely find it difficult to purchase professional-looking clothes when it’s time to enter the workforce. After receiving an “OK” from Dean Seivers, Adams went to work soliciting and collecting donations for the clothing closet.
Seivers is thrilled with the result and believes the effort is “a natural fit” for the university’s Quest for Student Success initiative to support students through graduation. MTSU was founded as a teaching school more than a century ago and continues to be one of the top producers of new teachers in the state.
“As you can see from this space, there are all kinds of clothing,” Seivers said. “Professional dress for a kindergartner teacher will look a little different from professional dress for an English teacher teaching 10th grade level.
“June has looked at what our teacher candidates need and I think she’s done an excellent job at gathering things that meet a wide range of needs.”
An MTSU alumna herself (Classes of 1980, ’82 and ’85), Adams has a master’s in vocational technical education and an education specialist degree in education, as well as a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising.
For a number of years, Adams worked in retail clothing and merchandising. She was store manager for Gresham’s Fine Men’s Clothing by Murfreesboro owner Earle Gresham, to whom she credits with mentoring her on how to properly set up a store — “what to do, how to do it, how to market, how to display.”
Clothing Our Educators received its first donations from Raiders Closet. Afterward, Adams went to faculty, staff and friends from the community to donate clothes that were dry-cleaned, on hangers and were “in really good shape.”
Before she knew it, there were more clothes than she could handle. Thankfully, Gresham put in “a lot of sweat equity” on weekends and after hours assisting with setup and supplying Adams with racks, counter and other necessary equipment for the clothing boutique.
The COE boutique welcomes donations that are age appropriate for students primarily ages 20 to 30, Adams said. Needs include men’s dress or sport shirts, slacks, ties, blazers, sweaters and outerwear; and women’s dresses, pants, skirts, blouses, sweaters, jackets, outerwear, handbags, jewelry and other accessories. The boutique is currently accepting summer and spring clothing as well.
Adams noted that the boutique is “so fortunate” to have partnered with Camille’s Department Store Outlet on West Northfield Boulevard, which will donate some “new” items to help increase its inventory.
Donations can be dropped off at Adams’ office, COE Room 307, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday–Friday. For after hours or weekend donations, contact Adams at 615-898-5153 or email June.Adams@mtsu.edu.